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Fleischmann, Jones and students

Ludwik Kowalski (August 29, 2003)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

The 10th International Conference on Cold Fusion (ICCF10) ended yesterday (8/29/2003). The next conference, ICCF1, will take place next year in Marseilles, France. The school year starts next Tuesday and I will have much less time to devote to cold fusion. This is probably my last CF item for at least a month or two. Let me share some details.

Both Martin Fleischmann and Steven Jones were present and gave interesting reports at the conference. I knew that Fleischmann is still active but current cold fusion work of Jones was new to me. As expected, Fleischmann’s presentation was mostly about electrochemical details while Jones’ presentation was about a recent experiment in which nuclear particles (emitted from deuterided metal foils) were detected by using traditional nuclear counters. We talked about his very convincing nuclear signature and he invited me to visit the lab and possibly work with him. Too bad this did not happen when I was desperately trying to be invited somewhere (it was a sabbatical year) to participate in a cold fusion experiment. I will certainly visit Jones’ lab in January. He is also preoccupied with tritium in some volcanic gases.

Another thing I want to describe is a student demonstration of a cold fusion experiment. Three high school students and one graduate student, guided by professor John Dash, set up a demo for the conference participants. Two electrolytic cells were connected in series with a power supply delivering a constant current of 3.5 amperes. Cell #1, labeled “control,” had two platinum electrodes and used an ordinary water electrolyte. Cell #2, labeled “sample,” had a palladium cathode and a platinum anode. It used a heavy water electrolyte. The DOP on the control cell was 3.03 volts while the DOP on the sample cell was 2.80 volts. In other words the electric energy was delivered to cell #1 at the rate of 10.6 W while to cell #2 it was delivered at the rate of 9.8 W. The two cells were geometrically identical; they also had identical catalysts recombining gases (hydrogen and oxygen).

On that basis one would expect cell #2 to be warmer than cell #1 (10.6 W versus 9.8 W) . But the equilibrium temperatures measured did not confirm this expectation. The temperature of cell #1 turned out to be 89.1 C while the temperature of cell #2 was 89.8 C. The difference of temperature, 0.7 degree, could be interpreted as an indication that some kind of additional energy was converted into heat in cell #2. Quite an impressive demo for a summer project for three high school students at Oregon State University! I am not saying that the nuclear origin of excess heat has been demonstrated in this simple experiment. As far as I know it was the first student-conducted experiment trying to demonstrate the reality of cold fusion. Sensing an opportunity to immortalize a historical event I grabbed a camcorder and filmed everything. I also interviewed students and their guests.

It would be nice to edit the footage and produce a 30-minute film. Unfortunately I will be too busy to do this right now. Can somebody who has time and desire help me with this? If so please contact me in private; it can be a nice item for an AAPT conference presentation. John Dash gave me a signed permission to use the recorded footage. Fleischmann and Jones also gave me signed permissions to publish photos and footage recording their conference presentations. My own presentations at the conference (a poster and a 25-minute talk) were also filmed but are much less important in the context ot the ongoing cold fusion debate. I showed the “Letter to the Editor, ” published in The Physics Teacher (June, 2003),

and I asked questions about means of communication between the cold fusion community and other scientists. The conference was a very important step in my attempts to form a definite opinion about reality of what has unfortunately named “cold fusion.” I knew several scientists by names; now I know them personally, more or less. Let me tell you that most of them are real scientists. The main critic of cold fusion, Robert Park (from AIP), was invited to the conference. But he did not come, presumably due to a timing conflict. He missed a great opportunity to learn about what is going on in several countries. He also missed an opportunity to argue about cold fusion with those who work in the field. This would be much more challenging then publishing “voodoo science” declarations. Robert Park worked on surface physics phenomena before becoming a spokesman for AIP. His absence deprived me of an opportunity to hear an open cold fusion debate between a knowledgeable opponent and knowledgeable proponents.

Post Scriptum:
A subscriber to Phys-L, an Internet discussion list for physics teachers, read and commented on the above description. Replying to his message I wrote:

“ . . . It would be foolish to use these data as an indication that something nuclear is going on. My emphasis was on the fact that a teacher, John Dash, was brave enough to give students a project based on a controversial subject. No attempts were made, as far as I know, to argue that excess heat can not possibly be attributed to chemical reactions, etc. The assumed ‘steady state’ situation can also be questioned. No calorimeter was used in the experiment to measure the amount of thermal energy.

The nature of the apparent excess of thermal energy should be discussed but not necessarily at the level at which students learn about differences between volts, watts and amperes. At a more advanced level I would ask students to calibrate the cell, that is to establish a relation (probably not linear) between the excess temperature and excess thermal power. The next questions would be:

a) how can the observed temperature difference of 0.7 degrees C be explained?
b) what else can we do with available tools?
c) what additional tools would help us?
d) etc. etc. 
Personally I am very critical of calorimetric data when heating rates are very small; nuclear signatures reported at the conference are much more convincing. They show that something very unusual is taking place in some cold fusion experiments. But that is a different subject.”

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